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Travel: Southern Indiana is a beautiful spot for fall visit
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Travel: Southern Indiana is a beautiful spot for fall visit

Autumn is such a pleasant time to travel, and we’ve enjoyed many road trips during this time over the years. One place we have visited multiple times at this time of year is the Santa Claus, Indiana area. It’s not the most obvious time of year for a visit.

The town is one where Christmas is the theme all year long at the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort and other local attractions. In December, the magic of the season is in sync with the calendar in this place, where you’re as likely to see Santa on a golf cart in the summer months as you are when we’re days away from Christmas. And in the summer months, the crowds swell as visitors make their way to town to ride roller coasters, see amusement park entertainment, camp and get in the Christmas spirit even if it is July.

The fall season is also a fun time to spend some time in Santa Claus. Holiday World’s Happy Halloween Weekends take place from Sept. 25 through Oct. 31, with lots of fall decorations and non-scary family fun. With the park facing staffing issues like many other businesses, they have had to make some adjustments and cap attendance, resulting in the need for advance ticket sales, so be sure to go online to get details before visiting. Our most recent visit in a pre-pandemic fall provided a fun time for our family with roller coasters, antique cars and other rides, mazes of corn and mirrors, good food and family entertainment.

On that trip we stayed at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort for the weekend, where we learned how seriously visitors take Halloween. There’s not just a typical costume contest. There are highly competitive contests with the most creative costumes you can imagine. And we’re not talking one person dressed up in a cool costume or a whole family in bland store-bought costumes, we’re talking family themes where everyone is dressed as related characters in custom-made outfits — often dogs, too — and campsites are decked out with graveyards and animatronic figures and lights and fog machines. Golf carts are no less spectacular as they are blinged up and DIY’d big time for the evening parades. It was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in my life.

We also spent some time at Santa’s Stables where the whole gang (me, hubby and four of the boys) went horseback riding. It had been quite a while since I’d been on a horse, but I got used to it quickly and so did the kids. It was so peaceful being out on the farm as the horses followed one behind the other through tree lined-paths with colorful leaves crunching below us. The colors were stunning for the whole trip, and on the final leg of the drive, as we drove through some hilly parts where you could see the many shades of red, orange, yellow, green, brown all across the horizon, it was simply breathtaking.

Besides visiting the places mentioned above, no trip is complete without two other stops: Santa’s Candy Castle and the Santa Claus Museum & Village. Santa’s Candy Castle dates back to 1935 and is the place to go if you have a sweet tooth. You’ll find old-fashioned and hard-to-find commercial candies along with hand-made confections, gooey fudge, 30+ flavors of cocoa, flavored popcorns and more. My weakness when I walk in the door is the frozen hot chocolate and it’s the first place I always head when getting into town so that I can enjoy one. Then it’s usually the last place we go as well before we leave so I can have one for the ride home.

The Santa Claus Museum & Village is another place we always have to make a quick stop for a photo by the giant Santa Claus statue, a peek at the exhibits and a walk around the historic original town buildings.

For more information on the area, visit santaclausind.org, holidayworld.com and lakerudolph.com.

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